Dude ranch vacations don’t typically conjure up visions of luxury. Instead, images of horses, log cabins, bunk beds and cowboys come to mind. But, with the new crop of dude ranches, all that has changed. Many now offer first class accommodations and food and make getting there half the fun. It is all about picking the right one for you. When you put luxury and dude ranch together consider location, accommodations, dining, and activities, and the choice should be easy!
My family loves being in the outdoors on vacation, but we also love to be pampered, fed well, and have nice thread count sheets to jump into at the end of the day. Little did we think we could find all that at a dude ranch, but we did and on more than one occasion. The luxury came in not only through the experience at the dude ranch, but in the journey getting there. Here’s what I considered to make the right choice.
No matter what kind of traveling you are doing, location is always key and getting there can be half the adventure. We love the journey. The more remote, untouched, unspoiled, and exclusive the better. The journey can involve seeing sites you would not otherwise experience, and visiting lands that are private and untouched, except for the sole use of the ranch.
Recently, we arrived on a property and as we approached the gate, we still had six miles to drive to get to the lodge. I witnessed areas that are not only protected, but also only accessible to lodge guests. Like fly-fishing on a part of the river that people dream about casting their rod in.
Traveling to remote destinations that require taking small jets, helicopters, and/or four wheelers can be enough luxury in itself. The specialness of the time and manner spent getting to the ranch is as much fun to us as the being there!
Much like the location, the accommodations for a luxury experience at the dude ranch vary greatly. Given the location and the experiences, you may have to adjust your expectations a bit.
Yes, there are five star rooms at many dude ranches, but the experience of the stay can also be the luxury. Staying in an original building that was used for coal mining; a wagon that has been converted to a room; a lodge that was originally the great house of the property; or even a glamping platform tent that has all the amenities, including a chandelier may be the true luxury.
The Ranch at Emerald Valley, a Broadmoor property, has all the luxuries of The Broadmoor, plus so much more. Each cabin has a fireplace and beautiful deck to enjoy the property. The amenities are all the luxuries of the resort, including super comfortable beds and luxurious sheets.
We also love the Gros Ventre River Ranch in Wyoming accommodations for the authentic historical cabins with all the luxury amenities you need. There is an option for everyone at here, much like other ranches we visit. Stay in a log cabin, a lodge, or the Homestead, each with views for miles and wildlife all around. The beds all have bed warmers and feather beds. What else could you possibly need at a dude ranch?
When we think luxury accommodations, we also think the luxury of service. All of the dude ranches we visited also featured fires, either inside or out, ready for us when we arrived and after cocktails and dinner. And morning coffee and orange juice served at our doorstep. It is these little luxuries that make the accommodations even better.
Truth is, it is all about the food! Well, at least to us. Amazing, clean, exciting food, including cocktails, of course. I mean anyone can throw a steak on a grill and serve it with some corn, but these dude ranches go all out! Many we visit not only grow some of their own produce, but their on-site amazing chefs or family has been cooking with recipes handed down from generation to generation.
The Ranch at Emerald Valley sources ingredients from as many local sources as possible. Their meat even comes from their very own Eagle’s Nest Ranch Wagyu beef and wild berries are picked all around the ranch.
Some of our favorite meals came from a dude ranch where we have spent seven Thanksgivings. The luxury was about the people, our cabin, and above all, the food. Each dish prepared was passed down generation-to-generation and carefully prepared by the family members in charge. We loved that some dishes were only made by the same person each year. It truly felt like you were sitting at their family table…Well, actually we were.
The other luxury of dude ranch dining is the dining location. Some of the most delicious meals we sampled at dude ranches have not been in the dining room or lodge, but out onthe ranch. Like the early morning rides down to the river where cowboys have a traditional cowboy breakfast of perfectly cooked scrambled eggs, biscuits and gravy, and bacon. I am not sure if it is the food or the setting, but seriously, those breakfasts are just delicious. I especially love that they are served on real plates, too.
The other favorite meal of ours is a good cookout with all the sides. Again, the luxury is in to enjoying a beautiful setting that not many people get to experience with a meal fit for a white table steak restaurant. We are telling you, these dude ranches only serve the highest of quality food and that is what makes all of the difference.
The dude ranches we enjoy also offer extensive wine selections, if you do not like what the house is serving. But, we have always enjoyed the house wines and the cocktails are made with premium liquors.
The what to do and the how to do nothing are big factors in the luxury level at the dude ranches we visit. For us, there are a few must haves in our stay.
One is having flexibility in our schedule. We find that the smaller dude ranches or those with a low staff to guest ratio work best for us. We like to be able to ride, fly fish, relax, hike, and engage in new experiences when we want. The lower ratio also creates more personalized horse rides, especially when we tend to visit the same places over and over.
Another must have is adventure. We love when the dude ranch offers a good variety of activities — but also add ons. For example, at The Ranch at Emerald Valley, you can add a hot air balloon ride or river rafting.
Then, for us, on site fly-fishing with and without a guide is a must have. While we love the guide to get us to the best places and for instructional purposes, we also love the down time to just throw our line in the water.
Another wonderful luxury is on-site or in room massages. And finally, the true luxury dude ranch is a big bonfire with a glass of good port and s’mores over a roaring campfire.
You ask dude ranch and luxury? We say, YES!
By Dana and Sherry from LifeDoneWell- Curated Content for those who love travel, food, wine and a Life Done Well
OR by Dana Zucker & Sherry Wernicke, Luxe TravelingMoms